Sixers take commanding 3-0 lead in overtime thriller

John Gallardo
FiredUp Network Sports Writer

@j_gallardo2

Thursday, April 21, 2022


A heartbreaking loss and a reminder that the playoffs is a game of inches

The Toronto Raptors were close. The first half was played nearly perfectly. Gary Trent Jr. was looking like his usual self, hitting shots off the dribble in the mid-range and knocking down catch-and-shoot threes.

 

Toronto was successfully slowing down Joel Embiid, as they threw timely doubles at Embiid while he was making his move off the dribble or on a post-up. Mixing up the timing of these doubles threw off the MVP-candidate’s rhythm forcing turnovers and rushing his shot attempts.

 

The Raptors were defensively engaged, as multiple players drew charges and made valiant defensive stands. Malachi Flynn had one of the more impactful games of his young career despite not scoring a single point, as he got some crucial stops against James Harden.

 

Despite all the efforts, it wasn’t enough, as the Raptors lost in heartbreaking fashion off a Embiid-fadeaway jumper in the corner that sunk the Raptors 104-101 in overtime. It was a golden opportunity for Toronto, who successfully slowed down some of Philadelphia’s supporting cast, as Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey weren’t nearly as effective as they were in Philly.

 

Harden had a better showing in Toronto, but fouled out towards the end of regulation. Trent Jr. had 24 points, and OG Anunoby had 26, however two misses at the line by Precious Achiuwa with the game tied at 95, and an Anunoby miss that would’ve given Toronto a one-point lead proved costly.

 

Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam struggled in this one, as they combined to shoot 9-for-29 from the field and managed 12 points each. In a must-win game, the Raptors simply needed more from their leaders.

 

This loss serves as a reminder that it is truly difficult to win in the NBA. It takes a lot to even get as far as the Raptors have this season, but it takes a whole different gear to win in the playoffs. Joel Embiid showed us that gear tonight.

 

After having a dreadful first half, Embiid stepped on the gas in the second half. He imposed his will on this game, as the Raptors’ defensive game plan could no longer slow the Cameroonian big man down.

 

It didn’t matter if it was a post-up, poster dunk, Kobe Bryant-esque fadeaway mid-range, it was nothing but net for Embiid. He kept the Sixers within striking distance, just for the right moment for him to exact his revenge on a team and in the very same arena that brought the biggest loss of his career.

 

With 0.9 left on the shot clock, Joel Embiid caught the inbound pass and proceeded to fadeaway in the exact opposite corner from Kawhi Leonard’s famous shot. This time, it was Embiid celebrating, much to the dismay and despair of the sold-out Scotiabank Arena.

 

For a lot of this Raptor core, it’s their first experience in such a high-leverage, high-pressure game. This will undoubtedly serve as a crucial growing pain and experience for the young guys on this roster, including the veterans that are also in their first playoff series as the quote en quote stars of the team.

 

The playoffs will always be a game of inches. There are very rarely teams that play absolute perfect basketball, but every team that steps out to that 94-feet of hardwood looks to minimize those mistakes that can inevitably happen.

 

The Raptors will look to get on the board and avoid the series sweep on Saturday, as they take on the Sixers in Scotiabank Arena 2pm EST.